Grab n go bags for toddlers

Someone sent me a link about a clever mama who got a bunch of friends together and they each made multiple copies of a different toddler Montessori-style activity or game, and then shared them with the group. Well, aint nobody got time fo’ dat! Actually, it’s an awesome idea, but I’m impatient and instead of organising an activity-making date with my mummy friends, I just went ahead and made a bunch of activities myself.

I have an 18 month old and a 3 year old, so some of these activities suit both and some are more suited for younger/older kiddos.

If Montessori is new to you, here’s a brief run down. Montessori is a constructivist approach to being and learning based on the premise that children ought to use and develop their independence and follow their interests. Children should be free to explore their environment and to interact with it safely. Montessori education encourages practical skills for young children, like pouring, transferring materials, scooping, buttoning, zipping etc. and also fosters a development of the senses.  There is far more to it than that, so go forth and explore more if it sounds interesting to you!

The idea behind Grab n Go Activity Bags is that the activities are kept in ziplock bags which can be quickly grabbed and taken out for times like sitting in waiting rooms or keeping children engaged and interested while the parents are in a meeting. Of course the activities can be used at home or anywhere at any time, but my purpose in making them was for out and about.

Here are some of the activity bags I have made in the past few months. Clockwise from top left: Colour matching, locks and keys, threading, popsicle stick puzzles, rough/smooth sorting.

Grab n Go Toddler Activities

 

And some more! Clockwise from top left: Pipe cleaners and colanders (for out and about we have a cute mini colander), containers and lids/caps, Etch-a-sketch minis, pipe cleaner threading, pom poms and tongs.

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I’m not kidding when I say that the pom pom and tongs activity kept both my children engaged for close to an hour! When I was testing it out at home I gave them a muffin tray instead of the mini egg carton and a pair of mini tongs each. They played and played and played, and I loved watching them and listening to their chatter about what they went about their business!

The other one that is a huge hit around here with my 18 month old is the containers with lids/caps. She gets a real kick out of taking lids off and putting them back on again – who would’ve thought? I have been known to carry this one around in my handbag!

There are thousands more toddler activities that are simple and economical to make. Places like Pinterest are a great place to find inspiration. I’m working on a few more activity bag ideas myself right now – stay tuned!

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Homemade Lip Balms – Frankincense and Chocolate Mint (so delicious you’ll want to eat them!)

I recently tried my hand at making my own lip balm. Guess what – it’s super easy! If you have the ingredients, all that is required is to gently melt them together and pour into empty tubes.  I am fortunate that I keep a stock of all these ingredients in my house, as most of them are used in other products that I make from scratch, like sun cream (blog post coming) and toothpaste. I use certified organic ingredients wherever possible/available.

Homemade Lip Balm with Informed Mama

When people hear about my homemade lip balm, the number one question I am asked is where to source the empty tubes from.  I purchased mine from eBay. If you have a soap supplier local to you, they are likely to stock empty tubes also.

I searched around online and read a range of DIY lip balm / lip gloss recipes trying to find one that would work.  In the end, I tweaked a few to come up with two that would take good advantage of my collection of pure essential oils. If I was a bit more hip I might be able to come up with better names for them, but alas I just call them Frankincense Lip Balm and Chocolate Mint Lip Balm.

The frankincense can be swapped out for another essential oil of choice. I am a little bit obsessed with frankincense at the moment because of it’s amazing beneficial properties. Frankincense is cancer-preventing, treats diahrrea, heals ulcers, helps sore throats and strep infections, soothes skin infections, eases depression and headaches, supports the immune system and so many other things that I would never have room enough to list. It can be used aromatically and topically.


Basic Lip Balm
– makes 12

2 Tbs beeswax (I use pellets)
2 Tbs coconut oil
2 Tbs shea butter
1/2 teaspoon jojoba oil or sweet almond oil
Essential oil/s of choice – I use frankincense approx 4 drops plus 1 drop peppermint oil
Optional – Vitami E oil squeezed from 1 capsule

Melt ingredients gently over double boiler. Pour into containers to set.


Chocolate Mint Lip Balm
– makes 10-12

1 Tbs beeswax (I use pellets)
2 Tbs coconut oil
1/2 Tbs shea butter
1/2 Tbs cacao butter
1/2 tsp honey
1/2 tsp raw cacao powder
Peppermint oil approx 4 drops (don’t use a crappy cheap one – see my note below!)

Place first four ingredients in a double boiler and melt slowly and gently over low heat. Add  remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Pour into empty tubes and allow to set.

The first recipe produces a soft and creamy lip balm. The chocolate mint recipe results in quite a firm lip balm which smells incredible.

A note about essential oils – I try not to put anything on my skin that I wouldn’t be able to safely ingest.  There are plenty of essential oil brands around, most chocked up with synthetic fillers. I use, trust and recommend doTERRA pure therapeutic grade essential oils.

Informed Mama's Homemade Frankincense Lip Balm

Besides being frugal and simple and self-sufficient, another reason to make your own is to avoid nasty chemicals used in commerical lip balms.  Need further convincing? These are the ingredients of ChapStick and their potential effects. I used Bill Statham’s The Chemical Maze to research the ingredients.

Padimate O: potential carcinogen
White petrolatum: contact dermatitis, skin irritation, probably human carcinogen
Arachidyl propionate: generally considered safe for cosmetic use.
Camphor: hazardous if ingested, suspected respiratory, liver and neuro toxicity. Avoid during pregnancy.
Cetyl alcohol: may cause irritation to sensitive skin, some animal studies show adverse affects.
Isopropyl lanolate: can cause or promote acne on oily skin
Isopropyl myristate: can cause or promote acne on oily skin
Lanolin: suspected immunotoxicity
Light mineral oil: asthma, suspected respiratory and liver toxicity, suspected carcinogen and teratogen
Methylparaben: human skin toxicant
Octyldodecanol: considered safe when used within concentration limits, may cause irritation
Oleyl alcohol: contact dermatitis, can cause or promote acne
Phenyl methicone: (no information found)
Propylparaben: human skin toxicant, sensitisation, wildlife and environmental toxicity
Titanium dioxide: generally considered safe in cosmetic use. Some animal studies show adverse affects.

The ChapStick website also clearly states that their product contains aluminium. Now, what are you waiting for! Go forth and create your own yummy, safe and cheap lip balm!

Posted in Homemade, Label Detective, Radical Homemaking, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

More healthy party food (AKA a party without packets)

Last year I shared some pics from Boy Wonder’s 2nd birthday party with healthier food options. Remember the watermelon shark?

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When Sunshine Girl turned one last September we had a little party in a park for her, and my goal was that no food for her party would come from a packet. It wasn’t difficult and didn’t require too much planning,  just more time preparing.

After having so much fun with the watermelon shark earlier, I decided for this party that I would carve a watermelon turtle. It was so cute! I used a melon baller to scoop watermelon bits out to sit under the shell.

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I  spent the week before the party dehydrating food, like strawberries and kale chips.  These were really popular and the plates were completely cleared out. Much healthier than lollies and chips, and much more delicious! Dehydrated goodies are so moreish, but don’t leave you feeling ill afterwards like most typical junk food does.

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I made dips – hommus and tzatziki and served them in capsicum cups with carrot sticks and homemade sourdough bread.

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Of course no party is complete without some chocolatey goodness. I made coconut flour muffins with avocado frosting (I know it doesn’t look like avocado, but trust me! It was avocado, raw cacao and maple syrup). I also whipped up some bliss balls, which are a staple food around here for any occasion.  Usually I throw together some medjool dates, raw cacao, hazelnuts and coconut into the food processor and mix until gooey, then roll into balls. I can’t remember what I did for these (it was six months ago now!) but it would have been something along those lines.

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Other food I made for the party included a raw raspberry dream cake, individual Greek salad cups and the beautiful ombre birthday cake with no refined flours or sugars and all natural colours, but we won’t talk about the frosting (xylitol icing mixture) melting or how the cake was ruined… we’ll just whisper the word ‘Pinstrosity’ and carry on as normal.

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Here’s a pic of us with our precious birthday girl. I’d love to hear about your healthy party food – link me up in the comments!

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Review: The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby and Child Care

The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby and Child Care

The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby and Child Care

I should start this review by declaring that I am not a member of my local Weston A Price Foundation chapter and while there are some things I love about the WAPF, I don’t think it is a completely balanced approach to diet and nutrition. Some of the practices form part of my daily life: I make bone broths; I take fermented cod liver oil; I drink raw dairy; I make and consume a large amount of fermented foods. The original Nourishing Traditions book has been indispensable for me in learning how to prepare some of these dishes. There are other WAPF practices that I don’t participate in, such as eating organ meats (I do take a liver supplement when I feel I need to) or large amounts of other meat. I do eat meat on weekends and it is always organic and pasture-raised, but my personal opinion is that the WAPF focuses a great deal on meat and fats and not enough on vegetables, particularly green leafies.

Because the original Nourishing Traditions book has been so useful for me, I pre-ordered the Baby and Child Care version as soon as I heard it was going to be released. I was excited when it was delivered and I could finally read it! Having two small children, I am always happy to learn more about nourishing them.

There is a lot to like about The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby and Child Care by Sally Fallon Morrell and Thomas S Cowan. Some of it is exceptionally well-researched (other things I thought were a little sketchy or questionable, see further below). I could never list all the awesome things the book discusses, but some of the highlights for me include:

    • Discussion about healthy fats. Many parents and parents-to-be are scared of fats because we’ve been fed a lie about cholesterol. I’m not afraid of fats and believe they are essential to nutrition and development, especially that of children, but as I mentioned above I sometimes feel the WAPF goes overboard with this.
    • Exploration of the vitamins and minerals needed prior to conception and during pregnancy.
    • Discussion about toxic chemical exposure in every day life/products and the risks of this during pregnancy.
    • An examination of what is in modern infant formula.
    • Comprehensive suggestions for treating common childhood ailments using natural approaches rather than mainstream medicine.

I also found myself reading and rereading a few things in the book that made me go hrmmmm:

  • A suggestion that it is not necessary to consume large amounts of water before and during pregnancy (p35). Apparently, the best way to hydrate your body is to ‘consume plenty of healthy fats, because fats provide the most energy on the cellular level – much more than carbohydrates and proteins, and the by product of this energy is water’. I don’t know enough about this matter to comment further at this stage, but I find it strange that drinking water would be discouraged.
  • “Attachment parentings can interfere with a child’s need to learn about the world on his own, and his gradual emergence into his sense of independent self” (p156). Clearly, the authors have confused attachment parenting with helicopter parenting. One of the greatest outcomes of attachment parenting is confident and secure children who are not only independent, but highly inter-dependent.
  • A suggestion that a baby play pen is a good idea to ‘protect baby from being stepped on’ (p160). As far I have ever seen, baby play pens are good for two purposes – keeping little hands away from the Christmas Tree, and having a safe place for mum to iron.
  • Promotion of the time-out technique for dealing with inappropriate behaviour (p173). I’ve worked with enough children in my career and read enough literature on child behaviour and development to know that time-out is an ineffective, overused and misunderstood tool that adults resort to when they have no clue otherwise how to deal with their child’s actions (thank you Super Nanny). In many cases it’s the parents who need time out from the situation to cool down and gather their composure. I’m not about to tell anyone how to parent, but I will say that when a child is sent to time-out to ‘think about their behaviour’, you can be guaranteed they’re thinking of anything BUT that.
  • An apparent misunderstanding about baby-led weaning. The book says that baby-led weaning is to be resisted and that baby’s parents should be squarely in charge of what baby eats from the beginning. I did a combination of purees and baby-led weaning with both my children, and I was always squarely in charge of what they ate and what they were offered. Part of my role as a mother is to prepare nourishing foods for my children. Whether they pick at it and hand-feed themselves or whether I offered it mushed up on a spoon is irrelevant. The book fails to recognise that a child can only choose food from that which they have been offered or is available. If only nourishing food is offered and available, then that is what the child will choose.
  • I must admit I am surprised that with the concept of Nourishing Traditions being about adopting traditional methods of preparing foods as observed in ultra-healthy non-western people groups, I expected the book on baby and child care to promote more traditional and indigenous ways of nurturing (not just nourishing) little ones, such as babywearing and co-sleeping. I guess we always have The Continuum Concept by Jean Liedloff for that!

    With all its good bits and all its interesting bits, I still have one as-yet unmentioned gripe and disappointment with The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby and Child Care. Not enough recipes!

Posted in Food, Parenting, Resources and Support | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

The best little un-granola bars ever

I had some puffed spelt that had been in the pantry for a few months and I wasn’t sure what to do with it, so was looking for ways to get rid of it quickly. My plan didn’t entirely work because while I got rid of it quickly, I now need to buy more because this recipe is a winner. I’ve made it four times this month already! I have a feeling I’ll be making it many more times.

If you don’t have puffed spelt on hand or you would like to make it gluten free, you could substitute something else puffy, like puffed rice.

Ungranola Bars. This one was straight out of the freezer so there is some condensation on top. I couldn't wait three minutes longer to take the photo and eat it.

Ungranola Bars. This one was straight out of the freezer so there is some condensation on top. I couldn’t wait three minutes longer to take the photo and eat it.

1 cup puffed spelt
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup dessicated coconut
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts
1/2 cup chopped almonds
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup tahini
1/2 cup raw honey
1/2 cup ground flaxseeds (or LSA)
Dark chocolate to coat or drizzle.
Decent size pinch of Himalayan or Celtic Sea salt

Warm the honey and tahini gently then add to a bowl which contains all the other ingredients. Press into a slice tray and refrigerate. Melt chocolate and cool slightly before drizzling over the mixture. Cut into bite-sized rectangles and return to the fridge.

I keep mine in the freezer and like to eat them frozen. You can add as much chocolate as you like, from a light drizzle to a full layer (or fully coat them top and bottom if you’re so inclined!) I use at least 70% dark chocolate or even up to 85% in order to get lots of antioxidants.

This is a great lunchbox snack (unless your school has a no nut policy) and great to keep on hand when you’ve got the munchies and want something nutritious and satisfying to eat. Did I mention it’s delicious?

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Five reasons I make my own toothpaste

Up until two or three years ago I was using regular toothpaste from the supermarket. The big brand. The popular one. I never thought too much about the ingredients list or that fact that it contains sodium fluoride (a by-product of aluminium production found in rat poisons and industrial pesticides), triclosan (a carcinogenic pesticide), sodium lauryl sulfate (another carcinogen), propylene glycol (an active component in anti-freeze which can lead to brain, liver and kidney abnormalities), DEA (a carcinogenic hormone disrupter) and a long list of other unpronouncables. I would stock up and buy in bulk when they went on special. I loved that minty freshness!

When I came into consciousness about toxic chemical loads on my body, I started experimenting with different brands and varieties of toothpaste from health food stores. The price difference to supermarket toothpaste was a killer, but I couldn’t knowingly go back to the nasty ingredients. I kept reading about homemade / DIY toothpastes and would tell myself, ‘when the next tube runs out I’ll make my own’, but I didn’t. Making your own toothpaste just seemed a bit too alternate. I already lived on a different planet to mainstream society, did I want to alienate myself even more?

In a word, yes. Not that I wanted to alienate myself further, but I decided homemade toothpaste wasn’t really that radical. This would be one step further into semi self-sufficiency and one more product I did not have to purchase. And so I trawled numerous blog posts and websites learning about what other crunchy nutters did and what recipes they used. Eventually I made my first batch! It contained equal parts coconut oil and bicarbonate soda (baking soda), a dash of himalayan rock salt, plus some drops of peppermint oil. That’s it! I mixed the ingredients together in a little glass jar and dipped my toothbrush in. The first time I brushed my teeth with it I was surprised and impressed – my teeth had never felt cleaner. I half expected Informed Papa to turn up his nose at it, but after his first use he exclaimed that it was ‘amazing’ and that he really liked it. Woohoo!

DIY Toothpaste

I’ve since made more batches, experimenting with quantities and ingredients as I work out the best formulation for my family. I now add xylitol, not for the sweetness but because xylitol helps prevent tooth decay and remineralise enamel.

Here are my top five reasons for making my own toothpaste:

1. I know the ingredients. They are safe, I can pronounce them and I know what role they play as ingredients and the potential impact they will have on my body. Coconut oil is antibacterial and antifungal. Bicarbonate soda is alkalising and acts as an abrasive. Himalayan salt contains 84 minerals, stops bad breath, draws out pathogens and kills bacteria. Pure peppermint oil has countless beneficial properties, but I mostly use it for the flavour and freshness. As I mentioned above, xylitol prevents decay and assists to remineralise.

2. It’s one less reason to go to a store. Long-time readers will know that I am on a mission to eradicate the need for supermarkets in my life.

3. It’s cheap and I’m frugal! I haven’t calculated the cost difference, but knowing what I pay for the individual ingredients, I can confidently say my homemade version is cheaper.

4. I prefer it to regular toothpaste. I find it works better and my teeth and gums feel cleaner.

5. If I run out I just need to go to my pantry to whip up a new batch!

**ETA – I’ve had a few enquiries about exact amounts for the recipe. I now use 4 parts xylitol, 4 parts coconut oil, 4 parts bicarb, 1 part Himilayan salt and however many drops of peppermint oil I feel it needs depending on the size of the batch. For a small tub like the one pictured I use approximately 10 drops doTERRA peppermint oil, but if you are using a non pure-grade oil you will need 40-50 drops. This toothpaste is the best, try it!

Posted in Cleaning, Homemade, Label Detective, Radical Homemaking, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

The love it deserves: a post dedicated to my sourdough starter and a couple of deceased goldfish.

When I was in high school I had a pet fish that thrived on neglect. He lived in a glass fish bowl in my bathroom (I was fortunate to have my own ensuite from age 13 until I moved out of home and got married at 18. Yes, 18. That’s another story). That poor fishy was treated to a daily cocktail of hairspray, deodorant and cheap perfume. I had one of those ‘surf’s up!’ fringes which was uber fashionable in the early 90s and it required significant teasing and an even more significant amount of hairspray. I dread to think about the daily cocktail of chemicals that poor fish endured simply because his home was next to every teenage girl’s favourite place, the bathroom mirror.

I fed him occasionally when I remembered and when I wasn’t busy watching episodes of 90210. I didn’t clean his bowl very often, because I had done that once with a previous pet fish (one that I had won at the Ekka) and accidentally dropped him out of the bowl and into the sink when I was tipping the water out. I remember panicking and not knowing what to do because I had heard that human skin touching a fish would burn it. It lay there flipping from side to side in the sink, so in my panic I turned the tap on and washed him away. I figured from that point on it would be safer not to clean out the bowl anymore. So anyway, I got a replacement fish and he lived in his cloudy fish bowl with slimy walls for a long time. One day my mum announced that we were going away to visit my family up north, so I asked my good friend and neighbour to take care of my fishy in my absence.

My well-meaning pet-sitter was so thoughtful. She fed my fish every day. She also cleaned out his bowl and gave him fresh water. And he died. It may have been from shock, who knows. I was pretty sad, but decided my fish-keeping days were over. It was just too much responsibility for me and my fluoro leg warmers.

I told you that story because I’ve been having trouble keeping my sourdough starter alive, and I want you to understand why. You see, sourdough starter does not thrive on neglect. Sourdough starter needs love, attention and routine. It likes to be fed flour and water. Not only does it like to be fed, it likes to be fed at around the same time each day – sometimes twice a day. My sourdough starter has been quite forgiving in that it has not completely died off on me, but it has certainly gone flat a few times and I’ve had to work a little harder to revive it. I’ve only had it going for three or four months, and in that time I have been experimenting with different flours and waters and techniques. It seems to be most active and bubbly and ready for use at night, when I want to go to bed. So I leave it until the morning but by then it’s waning, and I have to discard most of it and feed it again. I would like it to be ready for use in the morning, but I’m still working on that. I get into a routine for two or three days, and then I forget or get busy and my poor little starter starts looking quite sad.
So I’m spending some time tonight revisiting discussion forums and website FAQs dedicated to sourdough baking. I’ve made some killer sourdough loaves recently – see pic for a case in point, and I’d like to thank my little starter for that. I’ve also had my fair share of sourdough failures and to be honest, this hit and miss business is frustrating. I need to show my sourdough starter a little more love and respect, and a little less of my goldfish keeping days neglect.

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